‘Alice in Wonderland’ is a film that has been adapted from the classic Lewis Carrol novel by Tim Burton, and it depicts the protagonist – Alice, who defies her societal expectations by running away from a marriage proposal, and after numerous encounters in another world with foes and friends, finds herself and discovers what she wants to do with her life. Alice is a strong role model for young women, having opposed the societal norms that were prevalent in those times, joining a business empire ruled by men and also having defeated the stereotype of the knight in shining armour being a man. This is portrayed throughout the film, and with excellent scriptwriting and cinematic techniques, brings these issues to hand and resolves them. These issues can only be seen in the film though, as the classic novel does not tackle such grown up themes, yet somehow the film stays true to Alice’s nature, a truly cumbersome feat.
Societal norms are prevalent in all societies in one form or another, and whilst nowadays mostly anything is acceptable due to the fact that people have come to the realisation that people have the right to be whatever they want to be, that is not true for the world Alice lived in; one that is almost 200 years old. An example of such is Alice’s actions at the start of the film, when she was unsure of whether or not to marry Hamish, something she tells her mother. Her mother, to this statement, replies that “you don’t get better than a lord”, which proves a few things. The most important thing is that money and power is one of the major driving forces of marriages of that time, meaning that men, at the top of the hierarchical ladder, holding the wealth and power, practically had simply the right to choose whatever woman they so desired, and marry them. This atrocious display of inequality; of the lack of choice that was displayed served as an example of what Alice opposed. Alice completely disobeys these expectations not only with what she does, but what she says. After her mother is discontent with her not wearing a corset, something she states, Alice rebukes this by saying “who is to judge what is proper and what is not?”. She continues her argument with her lack of stockings, which when her mother asks about them she states that she is “against them”, thus furthermore proving the point. This is clear evidence of her battling the expectations and norms set in her society, and can be transferred to our times as well. This is teaching young women that they are free to do, wear, and act as they please, and not to regard what is thought is ‘proper’ for them to do, something that is incredibly important for them to learn.
Alice lived in a world that was dominated by men, who had all the power, managed to acquire any job they so pleased, and brought in the money to their household. Women, on the other hand, were expected to simply care for children, keep the house clean and cook for the family. This structure can still be observed in today’s culture, and this outdated style of thinking simply cannot stand in today’s society, something which Alice evidently combats with her refusal to marry Hamish, yet still proposes a large business venture to Hamish’s father: “Lord Ascot and I have some business to discuss”. This is met with the surprise of Lady Ascot, who states, in a flabbergasted one: “The impertinence!”, which is retaliated with Lord Ascot saying that he “would like to hear what Alice has to say”. Lady Ascot is an example of the duality of the hierarchy that they live in, where everyone enforces the structure, of what is proper, what isn’t for certain people to do and say. Alice combats this by doing improper things, such as joining a business ruled by men. This proves that Alice, once again, is teaching young women that they can work and be whatever they wish, once again something incredibly important to learn.
The stereotype of the ‘knight in shining armour’ can be typically associated with men, as for millennia as the story goes, the brave prince dons the shiny suit of armour and defeats the evil dragon, something that can be seen in iconic pieces of film such as the first Shrek film, subsequently rescuing the damsel in distress and living happily ever after. This stereotype is still to this day portrayed in modern film and television, which gives off the wrong message to young women. Alice proves to the viewers that she is capable of being that knight, and by doing so both defeats the Jabberwocky and the stereotype. An iconic scene that truly depicts this is on the chessboard at the start of the war, where Alice, donning a shiny suit of armour, bravely faces the Jabberwocky, hair flowing in the wind. This scene is symbolic of how Alice is wearing the shining suit of armour, which completely betrays the stereotype. Tim Burton beautifully depicts this with the use of the low and medium shots, which accentuate how large the Jabberwocky is, compared to the high angles that belittle Alice. These angles, throughout the fight, change and by the end of it, make Alice the high and mighty hero. This, paired by the grand music beautifully adapt the iconic book, and is even more supportive of the statement of Alice being a healthy opposal to stereotypes.
Alice empowers young women, she defies all expectations, and becomes a better and truer self in the process. Throughout the film, Alice has empowered young women to be themselves, to disregard societal expectations and norms, and to do whatever they please, work whatever job they so wish, and be whoever they want to be. Such an important lesson has been beautifully taught in this film, by excellent scriptwriting and filmmaking, to achieve a film both empowering and entertaining, staying true to the nature of the novel, yet still implementing adult themes and problems.